Willamina students participate in nation wide walk-out

Pro gun control protesters rally on main street, holding hands in their 17 minutes of silence

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Willamina students participate in nation wide walk-out

Kyler Huber, hands raised as he marched down the hill. “I’ve never been in a protest before and I really liked what it was for. I felt like it was a simple way for me to contribute to society,

Kyler Huber, hands raised as he marched down the hill. “I’ve never been in a protest before and I really liked what it was for. I felt like it was a simple way for me to contribute to society," Hubert said.

Photo By Hannah McCallister

Kyler Huber, hands raised as he marched down the hill. “I’ve never been in a protest before and I really liked what it was for. I felt like it was a simple way for me to contribute to society," Hubert said.

Photo By Hannah McCallister

Photo By Hannah McCallister

Kyler Huber, hands raised as he marched down the hill. “I’ve never been in a protest before and I really liked what it was for. I felt like it was a simple way for me to contribute to society," Hubert said.

Emma Nolan, Editor-in-Chief

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10 a.m. Wednesday—students rallied around the flag post in front of the high school, signs in hand, as they began their march into Willamina. Many advocating for gun regulations such as stricter background checks and mental health screenings.  

“I felt very proud of not just myself but the other students who were participating up ahead of the crowd. Mostly I didn’t feel like ‘I’m doing this’. I felt like I was backed by an amazing group of students who also cared deeply about this topic and it felt very empowering ,” Kaylene Barry, who was instrumental in organizing the protest, said.

Some criticized the march for its gun control advocacy, citing March 14 as a day of remembrance for Parkland, not a protest. A student led, optional assembly was held in the high school gym to honor the school shooting victims and encourage students to reach out to other classmates who may be struggling with bullying and mental illness. The assembly was apart of the walk “up” not out movement.

“I feel like the protest originally started for Parkland but then turned into gun violence. We focused our assembly on not walking out but walking up and anti-bullying,” Angelica Campos, who helped orchestrated the event, said.

Alexis Whitmore, freshmen, walking into main street, sign in hand. She was one of the around 25 students who attend the walk-out, Wednesday. “I’ve seen in the recent years how many deaths from guns, and not just shootings but also the gun violence in the East. I don’t think these people should be getting killed,” Whitmore, said.

Others saw the protest as an excuse for students to get out of class. Many were surprised to see them returning to school, assuming that they had all gone home after the almost hour long march.

“I think that when we’re given another option to unite and stand up for the people who got harmed and killed in the shooting in Florida then we should take that opportunity rather then just skipping school to protest because you want to get out of class,” senior Lydia Doughty said, “I feel like they were meant to do the same thing. They were meant to say that school shootings are bad.”

Protesters thought differently about the anti-bullying message. Many felt like it diluted the problem of gun violence. Students who attended the assembly faced no reprisal while protesters (who left without parent permission) received Saturday school.

“I think It’s very important that we talk about bullying because a lot of shootings have happened by people who have been bullied but I think that people should just be knowledgeable and to take away the focus from the actual point of the 17 dead and make it into a generalized anti-bullying thing is kind of BS,” Johnny Howard said, a senior who was at the head of the rally as they marched back into the school district. 

The protests were met with mixed reactions from the community. One women yelled “go back to school” as she drove past the students standing in 17 minutes of silence. Another man gave a big thumbs down from his passenger side window. But, there was also plenty of honks and waves from other classmates and community members. A women gave protestors high fives in the Select Market parking lot as they walked back to school. Parents stood on the hill with encouraging signs. “I’m more than happy to see the students out here. You guys are our best hope,” April Wooden, who stood outside of her home Wednesday to congratulate protesters, said.

The march through main street ended a the bridge, next to the metal logger statue. There students held raised fists and their held hands during in their 17 minutes of silence. As they walked back into school, the reinvigorated protesters chanted ‘hey-hey ho-ho school not a war zone’, waving signs with slogans like ‘children or guns’ and “today we say #enough’.

“It’s getting word out there that this small town is not self explanatory. They’re minorities in it. They’re people who have a voice. . . I think most of the students who were against this protest, is because their parents probably taught themHate isn’t something you pop out of the womb knowing. You learn it. So people who are stuck in this small town, generation after generation are teaching the same ignorant morals to their children. So, if you don’t get out of this town at least make a difference,” Howard said.

The conversation about the effectiveness of protest and gun control have followed into Thursday. Many students on both sides of the debate have taken to social media. Videos of the protests have already reached 800 views. Protestors and students who attended the assembly have received backlash, but March 14 has also opened  “I think, personally that there has been a lot of tension but there also has been a lot of healing. For the most part, myself and other people who have been at the front of the walk out and some of the students who have been at the front of the assembly have really learned a lot about each other and have respected each other,” Barry said.

Even Willamina students have began to feel the impact of school shootings. A fire drill a week after the Parkland shooting had many glued to their seats. Teachers who were unaware of the drill were reluctant to let students into the hall. “I got scared because that’s how the shooting in Parkland started. I asked myself, ‘am I about to die?’,” Alexis Whitmore, a freshman who joined the protest said, ”I hope that people who were against gun laws can see that we have a voice and we have an opinion and that it matters to us that gun laws get stricter because we don’t want to be scared anymore.”